MOTOCROSS ACTION’S MID-WEEK REPORT BY JOHN BASHER (1/1/14)

January 1, 2014
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MXA PHOTO OF THE WEEK

    Check out the Anaheim 1 Supercross track. What’s interesting? A few things stand out: (1) That looks like a very long, high-speed start straight. (2) There are two whoop sections. The question is, did Dirt Wurx make the whoops massive? (3) There are two triples. (4) It appears that there is a sand section, which I’m in favor of. (5) Of all the turns on the track, there are six 180-degree turns (seven if you count the tight turn after the finish line) and only two 90-degree turns. See you Saturday night!

JAMES STEWART & GAERNE JOIN FORCES

    Press release: James Stewart has been a Nike athlete for many years now, and is proud to continue to be affiliated with the elite brand.  With Nike stepping away from the motocross boot market, Gaerne has quickly stepped in to work with Stewart and they have come to a multi-year agreement that will see him competing in the top of the line SG-12 mx-racing boot. As the relationship grows, Stewart and Seven will be working with Gaerne to design and offer special releases to the public as well collaborate to work on various projects.

James Stewart:
    “I’m really excited to be doing something new here. Gaerne was genuine with their interest as soon as they heard I was free and that meant a lot to me.  But outside of that, riding in the SG-12 was the icing on the cake.  I tested every boot out there and I honestly liked the SG-12 the best.  I’m really excited that we have a relationship to build on going into the future.”

Bob Rathkamp, Gaerne:
    “Having an athlete like James on the starting line at A-1 wearing Gaerne boots is really exciting for our brand World-Wide. When we heard that Nike was terminating their motocross boot effort we jumped on the phone right away! James has been super cool and we look forward to working with him for years to come!”

VIDEO: JAMES STEWART SUPERCROSS PREPARATION

New look (Gaerne boots), smooth style and great footage?make sure to watch the end of the video!

MINI-VIEW: EDDIE BABBITT

    Nestled in the small lakeshore city of Muskegon, Michigan, Ed Babbitt began Babbitt’s Power Sports back in 1965. After Ed passed away, son Eddie took the reigns, and over the years has built Babbitt’s into one of the biggest motorsport dealers in the country. Not content with simply having a very successful business, Eddie turned his lifelong passion of motocross into forming a professional race team. After an initial foray into Supercross in 2005, Eddie refocused on Arenacross, teamed up with Denny Bartz (team manager), and transformed Team Babbitt’s into a winning machine.

By Jim Kimball

MXA: Eddie, before we begin talking about 2014 AMA Arenacross, I’d like to know more about the dealership that you have in Muskegon, Michigan.
Eddie: Babbitt’s has been in business since 1965, and we have really grown over the years by adding many manufacturers. In recent years we’ve added Yamaha and Honda, and our online sales have made us a very big player nationally. We now have most major brands in motorcycles, ATV/UTV, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft. We have had several recent expansions, and are expanding again.

Why start a race team?
Well, I have always been a motocross enthusiast. I rode while growing up and raced some. I have always loved the sport. I initially thought it would be easy to form a team. I went out and bought a semi and formed an East coast Supercross team in 2005. We barely made the main events, or even the night programs for that matter. But I learned a lot the hard way; in fact, it seems like almost everything that I learn I do it the hard way. After the season was over we did get to take one of our riders to the Las Vegas Shootout. He finished 19th in the East coast series, so that was pretty nice. At Las Vegas he finished top ten, so that was very cool. It helped put us in the light of some of the bigger aftermarket companies. I took our semi out there for our one rider basically to be noticed. Quite a few aftermarket companies did notice us, but really it didn’t help as much as I would have liked it to. Later that summer I stepped back and looked at some different things, while also becoming friends with Denny Bartz. He quickly became our team manager, and he still is to this day. We came to the conclusion that maybe we should try Arenacross, and that is where we really got started more heavily into racing.

How was that first year racing Arenacross?
It was actually very exciting. Back in 2006 there were quite a few bigger teams in the sport, and it was extremely competitive. It was nice because right away we were considered one of the title contenders. The year before when we were racing Supercross we could barely get a parking spot. We parked out in the back lot as opposed to where all the major teams were parked. We had the past year’s Arenacross Champion, Josh Demuth, riding for us. We were very excited and it had attracted a lot of attention. Having Josh ride for us gave us a good foothold in the sport and attracted and solidified sponsors for us. That year it was a big battle back and forth between Demuth and Josh Woods. In fact it was probably one of the best dirt bike race series of that year. Fortunately for us we came out on top, and that gave us a lot of forward momentum

It seems as if some other teams have reduced their efforts in recent years, while you have only grown yours.
The goal that Denny Bartz and I have had since we began our relationship was to be the most professional team in the sport?whether it’s Arenacross, Supercross or motocross. We want to be examples to others, and I think that we have done a pretty good job at that. Not only are we there to race Arenacross and win, but we are there to help the privateers with cables, pistons, clutches?anything that we can help with. Nobody is supporting or helping us with that. We are there to say that “You are a racer; we are here to support you?whether you need a clutch, lever, or springs. If we have it, take it so you can get out there racing, and good luck.” We just feel that we have to take the lead out there, and as I said I feel we have done a pretty good job at that. We support the sport; not just Team Babbitt’s. Ultimately our big goal is to win, and win every weekend. We want to give our sponsors more bang than what they bargained for! We’ve tried to do that every year since we began, and are very fortunate to have the sponsors that we do.

What about the health of Arenacross?
As far as the overall direction that Arenacross is going, I am very positive about it. I think Arenacross may have bottomed out a few years ago, but I feel that it has rebounded nicely now. I do think that Ricky Carmichael’s ‘Road to Supercross’ is really what they had intended to do a long time ago, and now have finally figured out how to make that work. I think that we are all going to see a lot of talented B riders come through Arenacross this year, and think that all the things Arenacross has going on now will be very good for the sport. It will make for some interesting times. I actually let Ricky ride one of my bikes at the events he attends, and we take it in our semi. We are definitely doing our best to back this series.


Tyler Bowers is the face of Arenacross. Photo courtesy of Monster Energy Kawasaki

When I think of Team Babbitt’s, I always think of Tyler Bowers. What were your thoughts about Tyler racing 250 Supercross this past season, and, in particular, his win in Las Vegas?
We are with Tyler in Arenacross on a three-year deal. We love having him on the team, and he is a great guy and obviously a great racer. Mitch Payton had some injured riders, and he needed someone to step in. Tyler was his choice. We at Babbitt’s were really honored by that, and for Tyler we thought that it was an incredible opportunity. Honestly, it was really good for Arenacross, and showed just how fast some of the Arenacross guys are. Tyler mentioned us in his podium speech in Las Vegas so obviously we were very honored by that, and just really excited for him. It was really big in that it was good for Tyler, Team Babbitt’s, Arenacross, and Pro Circuit. I think that it really showed that Arenacross truly does have Supercross talent and speed. Immediately after he won I probably had a hundred e-mails asking if Tyler was going to Supercross full-time. But Tyler has been true to his word of staying with us. He will go out of Arenacross as a champion, and enter Supercross some day as a tough competitor and contender in Supercross. That sport will be very fortunate to have him.

In the past you have talked about returning to the big stadiums at some point. Any recent thoughts about it?
I think that every amateur motocross rider has the dream of becoming a Supercross champion. Of course for me it wouldn’t be as a racer, but as a team owner. At this point though I cannot say that is where we would go. We are having a lot of fun racing Arenacross. It’s affordable for us and our sponsors love us. If we had some sponsors that wanted us to go race Supercross then I would do it, but only at a level that would make us successful. That is the only thing that has held us back. I don’t want to be a 10th through 20th place finishing team. We want to be top five, and to do that it takes a lot of money. I do believe that we could easily pull it off, as we have the management in place for it, and I know that we have the credentials to be a top Supercross team. There have been several Supercross racers contact us to ride for us, but at this point we will remain focused on Arenacross. Nick Wey has asked us to be a part of his program, but for whatever reason it just has not worked out. Recently Steve from The Wasserman Group has asked us to be a part of Chad Reed’s program, and actually I was pretty close to pulling the trigger on doing something with those guys. That would have been awesome for Babbitt’s, but I just felt that the investment would probably be better spent on us doing our own program.

What are your thoughts on the 2014 Arenacross series?
Well, of course we will have Tyler Bowers back, as well as Zach Ames, who had his best career finish last year with a third in the series. We also have a new up-and-comer, Colt Nichols, and we are really excited about him. We will have a lot of expectations on us, and my ultimate goal would be to have another sweep of the series or sweep the podium at a couple races like we did in the past. Probably one of my biggest and best moments in Arenacross was when we swept the podium at a couple races, and then of course swept the series that one year. Whether that can happen again is one thing, but it would be very cool to see it happen.

What do you see in the future for Babbitt’s?
Well, as a dealership we are expanding again; we have another new addition going on so we are forever moving forward here. As far as the team goes, we are fresh and ready for the New Year. We had team semi painted, and it looks as good as the Monster Energy factory Kawasaki rig. Maybe you’ll see it parked at a Supercross alongside the factory truck one of these days!

MEET THE TROY LEE DESIGNS LUCAS OIL HONDA TEAM


MY FAVORITE QUOTES OF 2013

    Sometimes you have to wade through the sponsorship plugs and drivel to get to the meat and potatoes of an interview. I’ve learned through my years of interviewing riders, mechanics and team managers that either a person speaks the truth or he says what he thinks everyone wants to hear. This past year I’ve interviewed quite a few interesting people. I’m happy to report that riders are becoming more articulate and unafraid to speak their minds. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially given Supercross is only a few days away and most of the guys on the podium will sound like an adult talking in a Charlie Brown cartoon. There’s hope for good interviews in our sport (when the TV cameras aren’t pointed in a rider’s direction).
    With the help of my buddy, Jim Kimball, who conducted a great number of interviews for the Mid-Week Report in 2013 (thanks, Jim!), I’ve selected my favorite quotes from guys who actually say interesting things. Much appreciation to Blake, Chad, Roger, Nick, Zach, Mike, and Brian.

BLAKE WHARTON ON AGGRESSIVE RIDING
This came after Wharton cleaned out Tyler Bowers last year at Minneapolis

    “It depends on who you ask. I’ve heard so many different things from so many different riders over the years. I don’t know what the right thing is. There are two ways to skin a cat. What do you do? To each his own. Some guys are known for starting well. Other guys are known for coming from the back, and those guys are also probably known for bumping other riders. That’s what you need to do sometimes to get through the pack. If I would have gotten the holeshot at Minneapolis then I would have done my best to check out. Instead I was in the middle of everything, and on the first laps there was a lot of bumping going on.”

BRIAN DEEGAN ON HIS FATEFUL GHOST RIDE AFTER WINNING THE L.A. SUPERCROSS

    “I really didn’t have a plan. I trained really hard that year, and I felt that I should have had a factory Suzuki ride. I went out and charged through the pack. I passed Robbie Reynard for the lead, and Kevin Windham was behind me but fell. On the last lap I realized that I was going to win the Supercross race, and so I thought about doing something cool over the finish line. This was before backflips and all the freestyle tricks were out. If I could have done a backflip after winning a Supercross I don’t think that could ever be topped. Can you imagine how wild the crowd would have gone?! i decided to launch my bike over the finish line and I was standing at the finish line while everyone else was racing for second and third. I didn’t even care! It was such a cool moment that I’ll never forget.”

CHAD REED ON STARTING OFF THE SUPERCROSS SEASON

    “The years I have won titles I didn’t started off slow. The years I didn’t win? Yes, I started slow. Some years I have started off slow, for the most part I’ve been a podium contender at the first race. I was very disappointed in the performance at Anaheim. At Phoenix I was a little better, but not really. When you look at a 4-4, the only positive I took was that my main guys on paper?the champ [Ryan Villopoto], Stewart and Dungey?they have had rougher weekends than I have. If you look at a year ago, I went 2-5-1 in the opening rounds. Going 4-4-3 is consistent, but I’m a little bit off. I need to get comfortable and win a race. That’s all it comes down to. As far as the points are concerned, we are in a great position. We are seven off the lead, and all of the guys that on paper should be the biggest threat are behind me. “

MIKE TOMLIN (BARCIA’S MECHANIC) ON THE GRIND OF WRENCHING

    “For starters, racing is my passion. I love working on dirt bikes. Second, Justin Barcia is my rider. He gives me the motivation to work hard every day and provide him with what he needs to win. Third, my race team is great. I think that Honda is at the top of the list of teams that a mechanic could work for. Everybody wants to be at factory Honda. That right there makes a big difference. We want to show everyone that we are the best, and we do whatever it takes to put Honda motorcycles up on top of the podium.”

NICK WEY ON OVERCOMING HIS MASSIVE MILLVILLE CRASH IN 2012

    “Honestly, just recently I finally feel like I am 100 percent strength wise. I took the rehab very seriously, but you can only do so much gym work. I was off the bike for nearly a year, so I just needed to ride myself back into shape. On the mental side, I have always been very aware of the potential for injury. Dislocating my hip and breaking three vertebrae is just the price I had to pay for making a mistake on that day. My desire to compete far outweighs my fear of injury.”

ROGER DeCOSTER ON THE RASH OF INJURIES BEFORE SUPERCROSS

    “Everybody is getting hurt again like how it went a few years ago. People just started getting hurt before the season started. I think that guys are getting hurt because we’re in the home stretch before a new season and they’re pushing hard to made progress.”

ZACH OSBORNE ON TENNESSEE GETTING A NATIONAL

    “I think that the southeast is a hot bed for motocross. There’s a really big following in this area. You can tell, because every year the Atlanta Supercross sells out. I think it was a great decision on the part of MX Sports to bring motocross to the southeast.”

MOTOPED: IS IT A DIRT BIKE? A MOUNTAIN BIKE? OR BOTH?

WHO’S GOING TO WIN ANAHEIM 1?

As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see one rider who stands out among the rest.

    There’s always so much buzz and hearsay in the days leading up to Anaheim 1. The industry folks cannot contain their enthusiasm for a new year of racing. Fans gossip on message boards or with their buddies by the water cooler at work. The stars of the show?the racers, of course?are working out any last-minute issues before Saturday night. And undoubtedly the mechanics, semi-truck drivers, team managers and other race personnel are kissing their families goodbye (“See you on my first off-weekend, on April 19th!”) and getting ready to ingest enough caffeine to bring an elephant back to life. Supercross is exciting for the fans and media, nerve-racking for the racers, and tiresome for the teams. Everyone benefits, but not without sacrifice. Such is life under the big top.
    I’m guilty of making a few bold predictions before a new season starts. It’s human nature to join in the fun and give my two cents. Sometimes I come away looking like a genius (I totally knew that Kevin Windham was going to win the A1 slop fest in 2005) and other times I come off as an aloof goof (I didn’t have Josh Grant’s name on the radar before the 2009 Anaheim race kicked off). Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong it’s still fun to speculate.
   There are still a few days before the 2014 Supercross series kicks off. With the rash of off-season injuries we should all be gun-shy about making predictions. There’s still press day (remember a few years ago when Josh Grant threw it away big time on the presser?) and the Supercross test tracks are buzzing. So, though we’re only three days away from A1, that’s an eternity for a mishap to surface. Let’s hope that everyone stays healthy.


#7 is my pick. He will light the candles at Anaheim 1 just like he did this past year in Atlanta.

    If the competition does get through these days then my money is on James Stewart. I was very impressed with his ride at the Monster Cup. Like most people, I figured that he would have thrown in the towel after having problems in the first main event in Vegas. However, he stayed the course, gained a bunch of confidence by winning, and came away with $100,000 in his pocket.
    I’m not picking Bubba for the A1 win just because he won the Monster Cup. I believe that James still has a lot left in the tank. He’s not ready to roll over and be happy with third place finishes. There’s still fire in Stewart’s eyes, which will prove problematic for the three-time defending champion, Ryan Villopoto, as well as Ryan Dungey and the rest of the 450 class. Stewart is one of the old dogs in the class brimming with young talent (i.e. Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Wil Hahn and Justin Barcia), but he’s still the most exciting rider to ever throw a leg over a motorcycle. I’m not saying all of this because I’m BFF’s with Stewart; in fact, James doesn’t like MXA one bit. That doesn’t have any influence on my decision. I can’t discount Bubba for the win. He has speed, confidence, and something to prove. It’s the perfect recipe for an Anaheim 1 win.
    Of course I could have egg all over my face after Saturday night, but that’s the excitement of the opening race. No one knows what will unfold. What we do know is that the weather should be perfect for a SoCal winter evening and that the racing will be intense. I can’t wait!

2014 MONSTER ENERGY AMA SUPERCROSS IS GOING LIVE!

Stock up on popcorn, because every Supercross round this year is going to be shown live (just as long as you have Fox Sports)

    Feld Motor Sports announced the long awaited 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, television schedule on FOX Sports and CBS Sport, featuring all races live and special one-hour feature programs. For the first-time ever, the entire Monster Energy Supercross season airs live on the FOX Sports family of networks. FOX Sports 1 will air 13 races live, including two repeat airings on FOX Sports 2.   Additionally, FOX Sports 2 will air four races live, including a repeat airing on FOX Sports 1 on the Sunday following the live race. In addition to the live race coverage, CBS Sports will provide nine hours of network programming including the much anticipated Monster Energy Supercross Special programs.
     Along with live coverage on FOX Sports networks, the live stream – Supercross LIVE! – provides three hours of live streaming from each Monster Energy Supercross race in 2014. From 2:00- 5:00 p.m. local time, Jim Holley and Kevin Barnett will provide insider analysis from practice and qualifying. As an added live streaming bonus, fans can log on to www.SupercrossOnline.com to watch the season opening press conference from Angel Stadium on Thursday January 2 at 3:00 p.m. ET, featuring Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, James Stewart, Chad Reed, Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen and Wil Hahn. Rounding out the full media distribution of Monster Energy Supercross is live coverage on the authenticated FOX Sports Go app. All told, over 200 hours of television and streaming coverage is scheduled for the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season, and 106 of those hours are original programming.
    “With nearly 160 hours of domestic programming on FOX Sports and CBS Sports, and nearly 50 hours of live streaming of practice and qualifying, this is the most complete Monster Energy Supercross’ television and streaming package ever,” said Ken Hudgens, COO, Feld Motor Sports. “For the first time in the sport’s history, North American fans will be able to watch every race live.  The international distribution of Monster Energy Supercross will also reach record levels in 2014, as nearly 200 countries will air Monster Energy Supercross this season, including live coverage from Australia.”
     “We are doing a lot of great things with the team from Feld Motor Sports this year,” said David Nathanson, General Manager & COO of FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2. “We kick off the first completely live Monster Energy Supercross season just days after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and we have a big surprise for Monster Jam fans set to be announced the following week. The evolution of this long-running relationship continues to be an exciting part of our programming plans in 2014 and beyond.”

MATRIX CONCEPTS AFTER-HOLIDAY SALE

    Receive 25% off all products until January 5th at midnight (PST). Apply discount code AFTER25 at checkout. Discount offer does not apply to team riders. Visit Matrix Concepts and 1.7 Cleaning Solutions at www.MatrixRacingProducts.com and see why 30 of the top teams in Supercross and motocross use and depend on Matrix Concepts garage and track necessities.

YAMALUBE NAMED TITLE SPONSOR FOR STAR RACING

Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha Team also receives GYTR support in the 2014 season. 

    Press release: Yamaha Motor Corporation U.S.A.’s Customer Support Group (CSG) is proud to announce Yamalube as the new title sponsor of the Yamaha Factory-supported Star Racing Yamaha Team. For 2014 the team will be known as the Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha Team. Yamaha’s GYTR (Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing) is again continuing its support of the Yamalube Star Racing Team and for 2014 increasing its technical engine performance support. GYTR offers a full line of performance solutions for the YZ250F and YZ450F. The team will use GYTR Cylinder Heads, Camshafts, complete billet clutch components, billet ignition covers, chains, sprockets and various chassis parts.
    Because Yamaha has full access to all its models far in advance of release dates, its engineers have long lead times to develop, test and ensure the reliability of GYTR components before they are offered to the racing public.
    “We are extremely happy that Yamalube has stepped in to become the title sponsor of the Star Racing Team,” said Bobby Ragan, team owner. “Yamalube has a range of products that we’ve used in competition for the many years we’ve partnered with Yamaha. Coupled with the continued support from GYTR, the 2014 season is going to be an exciting one for the Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha Team.”
    “I am very excited to see Yamalube join as the title sponsor of the Star racing Team” said Keith McCarty-Racing Division Manager. “Yamalube is one of Yamaha’s major brands world-wide so it is a natural fit for Star and Yamalube”
“Our Yamalube and GYTR products are specifically developed to maximize the output and longevity of Yamaha motorcycles used in competition,” said Trevor Kemp of Yamaha’s Customer Support Group. “We are proud to be the sponsorship lead and place our full Yamalube and GYTR support behind the Star Racing Yamaha Team. The relationship has proven to be mutually beneficial over the years we’ve worked together. We look forward to contributing to the Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha Team’s success in 2014.”
    Yamalube ? designed and engineered for Yamaha by Yamaha for nearly 50 years ? offers a full line of engine oils, lubricants, chemicals, cleaners and polishes for all Yamaha products as well as other makes and models. Learn more about Yamalube and GYTR at www.yamahapartsandaccessories.com and www.yamalube.com, or visit an authorized Yamaha dealer.

REST IN PEACE, TIGER LACEY

    It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Tiger Lacey. The Wolf Creek, Oregon, native passed away suddenly after feeling ill. Lacey had just turned 31 years old. MXA test rider Dennis Stapleton has been friends with Tiger since Dennis was nine. The two had traveled to the Philippines and other parts of the world to race for years. Our condolences to Tiger’s wife, Dana, their baby boy, as well as family, friends, and our own Dennis Stapleton.


Godspeed! Tiger.

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